A couple months ago I wrote about the role of the attacker in To-Shin Do. Specifically, I talked about advanced ways we can make sure our training partner (and ourselves) are getting the most out of each training exchange. Left out of those tips was the obvious beginning lesson: know what the attack is.
But at a more advanced level, to own the principle of any technique you have to go beyond just knowing the general attack. The more advanced you are, in anything really, the more specifics you want about a problem to be sure you are solving it correctly. As a brand new white belt, knowing the attack is a hook punch is enough. Later, you’ll need more information. Is it a tight, skilled boxer punch? Is it a wilder, less sophisticated haymaker-style punch? Is it a part of a pre-planned quick combination? Each of those ‘hook punch attacks’ could require a different defense. And those ‘types’ of hook punch haven’t yet taken into consideration body sizes, arm reach, what ‘element’ the attacker is coming from, who is around us, where we are, etcetera and etcetera and etcetera.
Outside of a fight, we all know that you can’t solve a problem when you don’t know there is a problem. It can be tempting though, to try solving a problem before knowing exactly what is going wrong. And trying to solve unclear problems by making random changes and hoping the problem goes away … doesn’t often work. If your knee hurts you might need to stop exercising. You might also need to start a very specific set of exercises. Or you might have a problem that has nothing to do with exercise. Not many doctors give a diagnosis simply from ‘Doctor, my knee hurts.” They’re going to want a little more information.
As advanced practitioners it is important to delve into the specifics of the attack. Try out different versions of the same general attack, like say, a hook punch, with the defense your practicing. Then try it with different sized attackers. Look at as many different situations as you can. Likely you’ll find a few situations where the defense seems to fall apart. It might mean you need to adjust the principle you are working on. Or it might mean that problem has changed to the point where you need a completely different principle. Each technique taught in To-Shin Do starts from a very specific problem. The more you examine that, you’ll start to understand the relationship between the very specific problem and the defense it requires, and you’ll begin to own the principle.